For a century, explorers and prospectors in Honduras told tales of the white ramparts of a lost city glimpsed above jungle foliage. Indigenous stories speak of a “white house” where Indians took refuge from Spanish conquistadores.
While the notion of a fabulous White City or a “Lost City of the Monkey God” buried in the jungle remains the stuff of legend, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez paid a visit Tuesday to a real and recently discovered lost city—complete with earthen pyramids, plazas, and a cache of stone artifacts—to participate in the excavation of the first artifact from the cache.
Archaeologists announced the discovery of the ancient community in the remote Mosquitia region in eastern Honduras last March. The stone objects, including an effigy of a “were-jaguar,” were left untouched under military protection until a second expedition could be mounted to return to conduct a carefully managed excavation. The archaeological team, led by Christopher Fisher of Colorado State University and supported by the Honduran government and a grant from the National Geographic Society, will spend a month recovering the artifacts.
“We’re hoping to find out what culture was here,” says Virgilio Paredes, Director of the Honduran Institute for Anthropology and History, who is accompanying President Hernandez to the site.
At the end of the month, says Paredes, the team of investigators will begin developing a “strategic plan” to widen their search. The site visited by the initial expedition last March is just one of three in the region revealed by an aerial survey in 2012 using an imaging technique called lidar. In fact, the archaeologists believe that La Mosquitia harbors not one, but many “lost cities,” which taken together represent something far more important—a lost civilization.